We think in words. So if someone doesn’t understand the difference between two words (or among three or more words) that person does not understand the concepts. For example, there are more dialects in the languages of the world that do not draw the distinction between the word “stranger” and the word “enemy.” Accordingly, if someone were to stumble out of the wilderness into a small remote village, and those people did not draw this distinction, that person would automatically become their enemy. Imagine how much needless violence has come from this situation, or at least how many lost opportunities.
We have the Liberty to learn, observe and be creative: what a gift! So here is a short list of distinctions between various words for your consideration:
- Accident vs. Collision: imagine the difference in the minds of the jurors if they are considering awarding damages for an accident as opposed to a collision.
- Imply vs. Infer: A speaker implies and a listener infers; so communication difficulties occur when implications are not the same as inferences.
- Solution vs. Resolution: Most human problems have no solution – if you want solutions become a mathematician – they have only imperfect resolutions.
- Myriad vs. Plethora: myriad implies a large number of things, but not a harmful number; but plethora implies a lot of something that is harmful.
- Courtesy vs. Respect: Courtesy should be given to most people as a matter of course, but respect must be earned.
- Friend vs. Acquaintance: A friend is someone who has your best interests at heart, but someone you know who doesn’t is more likely just an acquaintance (or a former friend).
- You’re Welcome vs. No Problem: The former implies that the actor did someone a good turn because she wanted the pleasure it brought; the latter implies that had it been a problem the act wouldn’t have been done.
Not only is the study of words fun, the choice of words can also affect a person’s conduct. For example, we all have seen the road sign “Slow Traffic Keep Right.” Mostly the response is: Well, I’m not driving slowly, so I’ll keep in the left lane. But if the sign were to say “Left Lane Only to Pass,” it would mostly draw the thought: I’m not passing, so I should drive in the right lane. Same intent; different result. How many more can you think of?